David Siegel Back in the News Again

The first time we wrote about Westgate Resorts' CEO, David Siegel, was to talk about Versailles, David and Jackie Siegel’s 90,000 sq. ft. palatial home. The construction of the home and Siegel’s subsequent financial challenges in building it after the 2008 economic crisis, was made into a documentary that actually became a viral hit. The Siegels are back in the news again, but this time the news is not so innocuous.

Federal Consumer Watchdogs on the Prowl

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued an order to determine if Orlando-based Westgate Resorts' sales people are violating federal law. According to a March 25 Orlando Sentinel article, a probe was launched to gather information on Westgate's timeshare selling and finance tactics. The Bureau order stated that it had received consumer complaints that suggested Westgate sales representatives made statements directly related to financing.

An attorney for Westgate, Kate Saft of Greenspoon Marder, provided this written response to the accusations, "Westgate cannot comment on the pending investigation except to say that it believes that it is in compliance with all consumer protection finance requirements under the CFPB’s jurisdiction."

Promises Unkept

Westgate already lost a legal war over alleged high-pressure sales tactics in Tennessee this past December. In the Tennessee lawsuit, Nathan and Patricia Overton bought a timeshare in Gatlinburg in 2011 for slightly less than $40,000. They claimed they were promised they would be able to use additional nights at other Westgate resorts for only $59 more per night. According to court testimony, when they tried to book the nights, they were told they didn't qualify.  Westgate's former sales manager was accused of high pressure sales tactics and the Tennessee judge agreed. The plaintiff's lawyers said they had heard similar complaints from other Westgate buyers.

The judge ruled that Westgate engaged in intentional and fraudulent conduct, and issued a $500,000 judgement against the company. A review of the $500,000 judgement was requested by Westgate, but was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Initial Stage of Investigation

It's yet to be seen if Mr. Siegel can weather this new storm of controversy. He is adept at bouncing back from adversity, and seems to hold on to his empire even through numerous complaints and lawsuits. Westgate Resorts was founded by Siegel in 1982. More than 30 years later, the company consists of more than 13,500 villas at 28 resorts throughout the U.S. The company employs 10,000 people. 

The latest investigation of Westgate began in September 2015 and is in its initial stages.  Among other things, the CFPB is investigating possible violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, and the Fair Credit Billing Act. 

For more information, check out:

Big Changes at Occidental Vacation Club

The Occidental Grand Aruba is perhaps one of OVC's most
well-known properties!
Is the future uncertain for Occidental Vacation Club's successful all-inclusive timeshare model? The Spanish company Barceló Hotels and Resorts marked its first entry into the timeshare/vacation club industry with its acquisition of OVC in August 2015.  Luis Namnum, OVC President, is out after nearly two decades of leading the company's growth (with 22 year OVC veteran Milton Gonzalez taking over the management role), and Barceló, one of the world's largest hospitality companies, has not shown much confidence in the timeshare model. Once again consolidation in the industry is not without consequences and there could be more to come. 

Different Approach to Reaching Clients

OVC began operations in 1993 with a vision of offering an attractive and different approach to the vacation club market. It has continued to innovate with a different approach to reaching out to potential clients with a focus on an "enhanced vacation experience". Its members are offered a personalized stay, special club check-in and check-out, high quality service and amenities, spacious rooms, and exclusive club areas like the first lounge. Two levels of membership, First Club and Grand Level, are offered now and there are plans for an even higher level like a Boutique-style hotel within the resorts.

Growth Continues

In January, OVC opened a new sales room at the Barceló Tucancún Beach. The new sales room has a Project Director and five sales representatives in charge of welcoming guests and introducing them to the features that make the club so special. They will also give guests an on-site tour at one of the nearby resorts to give them a first-hand look at the club.

In November of 2015 OVC completed a $280,000 upgrade to the Arena Beach Lounge area of Occidental Grand Xcaret, the all-inclusive Riviera Maya Resort. The cliff side lounges for First Club and Grand Level members were reimagined with new amenities including Jacuzzis, beach beds and lounge chairs. Adjacent to the lounges is an exclusive bar offering tropical cocktails, beer, wine and soft drinks.

What Does the Future Hold?

Barceló Hotels and Resorts is considering important renovation plans for the Occidental hotels with a possible investment of between $120 and $150 million. However at the same time, they are reviewing the brand structure of the Occidental properties and how they blend with the existing Barceló Hotels and Resorts portfolio.  No word on a name change or what else might happen. In the meantime, OVC members have access to many more properties through Barceló.

Will Barceló move forward with OVC’s successful timeshare/all-inclusive model? Recent sales figures for OVC are up. Timeshare sales in 2015 surpassed 2014 (51.1 million in 2015 up from 48.3 million in 2014). Ownership was also up (30,713 in 2015 up from 27,605 in 2014). Only time will tell. We’d like to hear what you think about the consolidation in the timeshare industry and what you think the future holds. Give us your opinions in the comments!

For more information, check out www.occidentalvactionclub.com

Eight Great Travel Innovations Make Travel Easier and More Fun!

Soon, even space vacations will be possible!
2016 promises to be an exciting year for travel innovations that make traveling more convenient, easier and even more fun. From futuristic space flights and self-driving cars, to check-ins that bypass the lobby and hotels that rent rooms by the hour, it seems like new innovations are happening daily. It's a quickly changing travel world! Here's our top eight...


Yes, robots are picking up the slack for their human counterparts, and it's not just about performing a service, these robots can also read human emotions. Starting this spring Costa Cruises will bring in humanoid robots to work along with the staff. Pepper Robots, made by French company Aldebaran, can also read human emotions. They interact with humans by communicating through intuitive interfaces including voice and touch. And they do it in German, Italian and English!

Book by the Hour

Perfect for an unexpected lay over or to get ready for a meeting or a special event, HotelsbyDay will book blocks of four to six hours at 40 percent less than regular room rates. Others seem to be following the trend, so be sure to ask your hotel.

No More Lost Room Keys

Starwood, Marriott, Hilton and other major brands are allowing guests to use their smart-phone as a room key. Get room details via a mobile app and wave your phone in front of the lock to open the door.

Avoid Lobby Check-In

Some hotel brands are allowing guests to check-in via text without having to download an app. Upgrades and customer service can be provided by text also. Check out Thompson and Joie de Vivre.

Traveling Alone

Solo travelers can forget about that extra fee they're usually charged for a room when traveling by cruise.  Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Norwegian are adding reasonably priced "cabins for one".  Ace and CitizenM hotels offer discount packages for solos too. Let’s hope others follow!

Get Aboard a Spaceship

Maybe not yet, but soon you may be able to take a flight with SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. Progress was made when NASA gave Elon Musk’s commercial company SpaceX a contract to bring astronauts to the International Space Station on its Crew Dragon spacecraft. Next up may be flights for the rest of us.

High-Tech Flying

Virgin America's new ViaSat Wi-Fi equipped Airbus A320 allows fliers to log onto their Netflix account and stream favorite shows to their laptop, tablet or phone up to ten times faster than any other onboard Wi-Fi systems. JetBlue has teamed with Amazon to offer free mega-fast Wi-Fi to prime members enabling them to stream almost anything for free.

No More Getting Lost

Use your smartphone to search for addresses and attractions with Google's new Offline Maps app. It offers turn-by-turn street directions pretty much anywhere in the world without internet access.

Read more in the November/December 2015 issue of ARDA’s Developments magazine, or at ARDA, JetSetter and RCI Ventures!

The Oscars Have Nothing on ARDA!

If you are like most people, you watched the Academy Awards Sunday evening. The ARDA Awards may not have the buzz that surrounded this year's Academy Awards, but there’s certain to be excitement at the ARDA Awards ceremony. The timeshare world awaits the announcement of the ARDA Award Finalists with great anticipation. ARDA Winners and the winners of the ACE Awards will be announced May 4th at the ARDA World 2016 Awards Gala. 

And the ARDA Goes to…

One of the highlights of the award ceremony is the presentation of the ARDA Circle of Excellence (ACE) awards that honor those who have "attained the very highest level of excellence in the resort industry and whose accomplishments and dedication spur the industry."

The ARDA Awards Program also recognizes the best nominees submitted in categories that include overall professional excellence in these four divisions.
  • Advertising, Promotion and Communications 
  • Management and Administration 
  • Resort Design
  • Sales and Marketing

A Chance to Wear Your Gown or Tuxedo

If you didn’t get to show off your gown or tuxedo at the Oscar's, here’s your chance. The ARDA Awards Gala takes place at the Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood, Florida on May 4. It’s your opportunity to formally applaud the winners and the organizations they represent, plus enjoy dinner and entertainment. How fun is that?

Don't Miss the Event

ARDA World’s Global Timeshare Event takes place at the Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood, Florida May 1-5. According to ARDA, those attending will have key opportunities to connect with leaders from hundreds of companies during receptions, Forums and networking events. The 40 educational sessions on the industry's best practices, latest legislation and newest trends and products will keep timeshare well informed. You can view the lists of finalists and find out more about the event at the site below.